The BJP leadership may brew with confidence in fielding BC Khanduri as its chief minister candidate, but his predecessor Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank is giving its campaign managers anxious moments.
With a day left for the election, BJP insiders say, Nishank’s key men are busy working against some official nominees. There has also been a report about an understanding struck between Nishank’s men and those close to Congress leader Harish Rawat, at a hotel rendezvous. This has sent alarm bells ringing in the other camp.
Nishank’s supporters apprehend a “witch hunt”, if Khanduri is back in office and, therefore, they say, he’d rather want rival Congress to win as it could be more “lenient”.
It’s no secret that Nishank is upset with his removal in September, to make way for Khanduri. Then, he was told by the high command to limit himself to his constituency during campaigning, as the Congress was harping on his sullied tenure.
Even his ticket was despite the RSS brass being unhappy over the corruption charges on him. Nishank had, on his part, promised “full cooperation”. His pictures were used in the BJP campaign material, along with Khanduri’s.
Khanduri is understood to have conveyed the developments to party brass. “His fears are not unfounded,” said a top BJP leader, adding, however, that the situation was still in favour of the party. Another BJP aide said a loss of three or four seats could tilt the balance in the 70-member assembly.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari has defended Nishank, saying, “He has not been indicted in any case, whether it was land use changes related to Citurgia (chemical factory in Rishikesh) or distribution of hydropower projects among outsiders.”
Nishank, though, has not drawn comfort from Gadkari’s support. After all, his supporters argue, Khanduri was forced to quit in 2009 by his detractors after the BJP lost all five Lok Sabha seats. Now, Nishank finds himself “totally sidelined”.